Housing issues can be a barrier when families are considering whether to take on the responsibilities of caring for a relative’s or friend’s child. New caring responsibilities may cause your housing to become overcrowded, less affordable or unsuitable in some other way.


There are steps you can take if your home becomes overcrowded when a child moves in.

If you are a council or housing association tenant:

  • Notify your landlord of your changed circumstances.
  • You can request a housing assessment to determine whether you can get a transfer.
  • You may be able to swap your home for another council or housing association property through a mutual exchange scheme. There are certain rules you need to follow and you must get permission from your landlord before you move.  Contact our advice service or ask your landlord for information about mutual exchange schemes.

Government guidance to local authorities on family and friends care states that housing authorities and registered social landlords should have policies that recognise the importance of the role performed by family and friends carers, and that whenever possible family and friends carers living in social housing should be given appropriate priority to move to more suitable accommodation if this will prevent the need for a child to become looked after.

If you live in privately rented accommodation:

  • If your property is managed by a letting agent it might be possible for them to move you to another property which is more suitable for your household needs.
  • Local authorities have the power to give financial support towards accommodation costs under section 17 of the Children Act 1989 where they assess this as the most appropriate way to safeguard and promote a child’s welfare. This could include help with the deposit to rent a bigger flat.
  • You might be deemed as threatened with homelessness because the property is unsuitable for you and your family to continue to reside in. You can make a homelessness application by going to your local authority.

Local authorities use a standardised legal definition of overcrowding when assessing your housing needs. You may feel overcrowded; however, you will only get help if you meet the legal criteria.  If you would like advice on your particular circumstances, please contact our advice service.

If you own your home:

  • Seek financial advice to determine what options are available to you.
  • As stated above, local authorities have the power to give financial support towards accommodation costs under section 17 of the Children Act 1989. Potentially this could include financial help with the costs of building an extension where existing accommodation is too small to include the child.

Rent arrears

You may find it a struggle to pay your rent due to your new caring responsibilities.  If you are on a low income you might be eligible for benefits such as Housing Benefit or Universal Credit and Council Tax Benefit.  There may be other sources of financial assistance available to you.  To find out more see our Benefits pages or contact our advice service.

Rent arrears can cause much anxiety and fear of losing your home. Even if you have other debts you should prioritise your rent. If you do get behind with your rent it is important that you take action:

  • Contact your landlord to discuss your circumstances.
  • Check whether you are claiming all the benefits you are entitled to.
  • Try to reach an agreement about paying off arrears, but don’t agree to pay more than you can afford.

See National Debtline’s Rent Arrears Guide for advice on dealing with rent arrears and what to do if your landlord takes court action against you.

Mortgage arrears

If you have a mortgage and you are in arrears or worried about falling behind with payments:

  • You may qualify for help towards your mortgage interest payments if you are getting Income Support, Jobseekers Allowance, Employment Support Allowance, Universal Credit or Pension Credit.  This help is called Support for Mortgage Interest (SMI) and is paid as a loan which you'll have to repay with interest when you sell or transfer ownership of your home. Find further information here.
  • Contact your lender as soon as possible to discuss your circumstances. Making early contact means that there may be more options available to you. Find out about some possible options here. Continue to pay as much as you can manage each month. This shows that you are committed to paying your mortgage.
  • If your lender is unhelpful or unwilling to negotiate, request their complaints procedure and complain in writing.  It is important that you continue to try and negotiate with your lender where possible.
  • If you are still unable to reach an agreement with your lender and your complaint has not been resolved, you may complain to the Financial Ombudsman Service about your case.

If your lender is regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority they must follow certain rules about how to deal with customers in arrears. Find more information here.

If you have mortgage arrears you can find further useful information in National Debtline’s Mortgage Arrears Guide.

If you have other debts on top of your mortgage or rent arrears, seek money advice – see our Debt page.

Your lender/landlord may take action against you in court to repossess your property.  If they commence court proceedings against you, seek immediate legal advice and assistance.

If you would like more information about these or any other housing problems, please contact our advice service. You can also get free, confidential help and advice from the organisations listed below:


Advice line: 0808 800 4444 Mon-Fri 8am-8pm, Weekends 8am-5pm
Website: england.shelter.org.uk/get_advice

Independent housing advice and information on the website and through the free national advice line, staffed by trained housing advisers.  The website also gives details of  local advice services.

National Debtline

Advice line: 0808 808 4000 Monday to Friday 9am-8pm & Saturday 9.30am-1pm
Website: www.nationaldebtline.org.

National Debtline provides free, confidential, expert telephone advice. The website includes a comprehensive range of factsheets and guides including mortgage and rent arrears guides.

Citizens Advice

Website: www.citizensadvice.org.uk

Online help from Citizens Advice and details of your nearest Citizens Advice Bureau.